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HCPHA problems continue

WINTON – The financial problems continue for the Hertford County Public Health Authority (HCPHA), which is scheduled to cease operations next month.

At their meeting here yesterday (Monday), the Hertford County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to grant a request from the HCPHA for an additional $100,000 in county funds. The money will come from the county’s appropriated fund balance.

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams told the R-C News-Herald, after a closed session was held to discuss the HCPHA request, that the money was needed, “because of cash flow issues.”

“Back in February, they (HCPHA) requested we forward them their remaining balance, the funds we annually appropriate for the health department, for the current fiscal year,” Williams said on Monday afternoon. “Then they followed with another funding request last month, this one being the $100,000 the commissioners approved this morning.”

When asked about the February payment, Williams said it was for $159,908.75. She said that request was also a “cash flow issue” with HCPHA.

Hertford County local government appropriates $383,781 annually to the HCPHA. That sum is typically paid out in equal 12 month installments.

The $100,000 approved Monday is in excess of the annual appropriation.

“We were told by the HCPHA that the $100,000 will carry them through the month of May,” Williams remarked, adding the additional funding will be used to meet the HCPHA payroll and pay for operational costs.

As for the month of June, Williams said the HCPHA is expected to cover those projected expenditures (payroll and operational costs) with funds they will generate from the sale of their Home Health Agency and a Medicaid cost settlement.

“Those funds are pending as of the current time, but if they are received they should be enough to carry the health department through June 30,” Williams noted.

HCPHA’s financial health has been bleak.

It was reported by this newspaper in early March that an audit of the HCPHA finances for fiscal year 2016-17 showed its liabilities exceeded its assets by $1,972,974 (net position). The audit also noted that during the same time period, HCPHA’s expenditures exceeded revenues by $322,201 on the modified accrual basis, and by $496,381 on the full accrual basis.

At a special called meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners on March 27, they approved two resolutions by separate motions: (1) to dissolve the HCPHA effective June 30; and (2) join Albemarle Regional Health Services effective July 1.

Both motions, voiced by Commissioner Ronald Gatling, were approved by 4-1 votes. Commissioner John Horton, who opposed both measures, placed a motion on the floor, asking to amend the first motion by waiting one extra year to dissolve HCPHA (effective June 30, 2019). Horton’s motion died due to a lack of a second.

As noted in the first motion, the county commissioners “determined that in order to keep and expand public health services for the citizens of Hertford County at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers, it is not economically feasible to provide public health services as a single county public health authority.”

In the second motion, the commissioners “determined that the best means of providing public health services for the citizens of Hertford County and to be able to keep and expand public health services on an economically feasible basis is through a multi-county entity rather than a single county health department or authority.”

The pending move to Albemarle Regional Health Services will cost Hertford County $381,558 for the 2018-19 fiscal year (which begins July 1).  The operational cost will be $240,126 in the first year. That annual cost increases by 2.5 percent each subsequent year. The remainder of the county’s annual cost is a “buy-in” of Albemarle’s existing fund balance of $9,428,783. Based on its population, Hertford County’s “buy-in” will total $1,414,317. That total amount will be paid over a 10-year period ($141,432 annually).

The HCPHA Board has also approved the transition to Albemarle. In turn, Albemarle has agreed to take a number of HCPHA employees effective June 15.

Albemarle Regional Health Services currently encompasses Pasquotank, Perquimans, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Bertie, and Gates counties.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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